Spoon Feeding

October 25, 2011

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Sometimes spoon feeding is appropriate. Photo credit: Flickr.com/acme

I don’t like spoon feeding reporters, but it seems more and more, journalists under deadline pressure expect it. They want PR people to summarize, boil things down, give them a sound bite, write out the headline and keep it simple, stupid.

I can certainly do that — but at some point, the journalist has to use some critical thinking skills. Don’t get me wrong, as a PR person, I want to be trusted by the journalists I work with. But I expect reporters to ask me (and every other PR person they deal with) tough questions and to verify that what they’ve been told is true.

Too often, they don’t. And, as their reader, listener and viewer, this bothers me.

Today, for example, I was asked by four separate reporters if Sprint was going to comment on an AT&T court filing late this afternoon in our ongoing antitrust dispute with Ma Bell. Not one of them had bothered to read AT&T’s filing to find out  that it was actually a response to something Sprint filed in Court yesterday morning.

When I told them that, their collective response was a sheepish, “Oh.”

All four reporters ignored Sprint’s court filing yesterday, because I didn’t email it to them; but they were chomping at the bit to write about AT&T’s response to that same Sprint filing — all because AT&T’s PR machine spoon fed it to them.

They didn’t even understand what AT&T had served up was a reaction to the Sprint filing a day earlier. And let me just say, there was no news in Sprint’s original filing or AT&T’s response.

Doesn’t anyone check court records for themselves anymore? Is everything taken at face value? Is the deadline pressure facing journalists so severe that PR people have become the journalists? Or are journalists just made lazier by uber-helpful PR people?

If so, we’re all in trouble.

 

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